Troubled Asset Relief Program:

Status of Efforts to Address Transparency and Accountability Issues

GAO-09-417T: Published: Feb 24, 2009. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 2009.

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This testimony discusses our work on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), under which the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) has the authority to purchase and insure up to $700 billion in troubled assets held by financial institutions through the Office of Financial Stability (OFS). As you know, Treasury was granted this authority in response to the financial crisis that has threatened the stability of the U.S. banking system and the solvency of numerous financial institutions. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (the act) that authorized TARP on October 3, 2008, requires GAO to report at least every 60 days on findings resulting from our oversight of the status of actions taken under the program. We are also responsible for auditing OFS's annual financial statements and for issuing special reports on any issues that emerge from our oversight. To carry out these oversight responsibilities, we have assembled interdisciplinary teams with a wide range of technical skills, including financial market and public policy analysts, accountants, lawyers, and economists who represent combined resources from across GAO. In addition, we are building on our in-house technical expertise with targeted new hires, re-employed annuitants with related expertise, and outside experts. The act also created additional oversight entities--the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) and the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP)--that also have reporting responsibilities. We are coordinating our work with COP and SIGTARP and are meeting with officials from both entities to share information and coordinate our oversight efforts. These meetings help to ensure that we are collaborating as appropriate and not duplicating efforts.

Treasury has announced a number of new programs to try to stabilize financial markets, but most of its activity during this period has continued to be through its Capital Purchase Program (CPP). As of February 19, Treasury had disbursed about $300 billion in TARP funds, about $196 billion of which was for CPP. Treasury has recently announced the Financial Stability Plan, which outlines a set of measures to address the financial crisis and restore confidence in the U.S. financial and housing markets, and a Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan to mitigate foreclosures and preserve homeownership. Treasury also has taken important steps since our first report to implement all nine of our recommendations. However, due in part to the short time frame since our first report, we continued to identify a number of areas that warrant Treasury's ongoing attention concerning TARP.

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